The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Legacy of Progress, Challenge, and the Struggle for Social Justice

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark law that outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, and national origin. However, the Act has not yet achieved its full potential in creating a just and equal society for all people. This article explores the progress made under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the challenges that remain, and the ongoing struggle for social justice in the United States.
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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was established to deal with discrimination in the United States. The law barred people and institutions from discriminating against others based on skin color, religion, ethnicity, sex or national origin. Nonetheless, the acts of discrimination continue to rage across the United States. There has not been a steady progress in the implementation and improvement of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 to achieve what was intended through it. However, the Act has what it would take to create a just and equal society for all people. When looking at the history of the United States, the struggle for social justice has been in the thick of things. Some of the prominent names in the country like Martin Luther King Jr. are identified with the struggle for social justice and human rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 primary intentions of ensuring equality among all people remains a pipe dream, and the many social justice movements in the United States today are testimony of the Act’s failings.

Historical and Constitutional Background of The Civil Rights Act of 1964

When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, it gave hope to the minorities and the disadvantaged in society in that they would receive better treatment. Outlawing discrimination was believed to be the best route to equality. It has not been the case. Joni Hersch and Jennifer Bennett Shinall in their 2015 journal – FIFTY YEARS LATER: THE LEGACY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 - evaluated the progress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the half a century it has been existing. The gains are there, but also the journey is still way too long uncovered. Before 1964, racially segregated schools still existed. The blacks and the whites were not being mixed in the school system. This sparked rage and protests among the campaigners of equality and social justice. They felt that such policies on segregation were backward and affecting their position in the society. They were being treated as second class citizens.
As such, the president at the time, Lyndon Johnson, signed into law the Civil Rights Act to end discrimination. The policy was well-intended to put the country on a map against the pains and hustles of a divided citizenry. It would end the white supremacy that had bedeviled the United States for ages. Nonetheless, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has not achieved as much over half a century later. The people continue struggling for equality and fighting for their rightful space with the context of American resources. The Act was an application of the first ten amendments to the Unites States Constitution. The amendments would be known as the Bill of Rights guaranteeing people their freedoms and liberties.
The Civil Rights Act has given birth to so many movements over the years. In the recent past, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been on the tabloids and headlines. Dewey M. Clayton Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement: A Comparative Analysis of Two Social Movements in the United States - 2018 argued that the reoccurrence of movements like this one is enforced by the loopholes that were left gaping by the Act. Had it sealed all discriminatory loopholes, people would be enjoying life and not fighting for rights that are legally guaranteed. The people are entitled to non-discriminatory acts from the government of the day. However, such challenges never cease to exist. People take to the streets in protest of the abuse of their rights and freedoms, in a country with a specific law to give them such freedoms. The challenge has always been blamed on white supremacy, which has dominated against all the others for the entirety of the American existence. It was not the America that the founding fathers had idolized.

Checks and Balances System in Regards to The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The system of checks and balances exists between the three arms of government. The legislature, executive and the judiciary all put each in a check and balance system to ensure there are no excesses spilling over from each other. When reviewing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it has a huge part to it focused on the system of checks and balances. In the workings of government, discrimination and segregation are usually blamed on the executive. More often than not, it will be the executive arm that shall develop policies that are not in line with the constitutional mandate of the government. As such, the other arms of government have an oversight role to play.
When the police, who are basically a part of executive, violate the law against the citizens like Chauvin did against George Floyd, they are subjected to judicial processes. Further, the executive may also be sued in the judiciary, or summoned by the Congress whenever there are complaints of discrimination against them. Police bosses from different departments have appeared before Congress committees or state assembly committees to explain acts that have been deemed to contravene the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The system of checks and balances works in all directions across the arms of government. Further, the states and federal systems must also put each other under check on the implementation of the Act. Acts of discrimination and segregation in the United States can only be stumped out when there is great coordination across all government organs.
People’s health, education, and employment are a derivative of equality. In the poor implementation and application of the Act, the people have been exposed to an imbalance of what their experience in public service delivery. Inarguably, civil rights must be considered when delivering public services. It has been witnessed at the highest level, a push and pull between different regimes on the best health insurance coverage for people in the United States. The courts have stepped in at times to deem some moves unconstitutional. The Congress stopped the plan by executive to wipe out the Obamacare program that was designed to improve access to healthcare. All these are indications derivatives of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its functionalism in different areas.

Public Policy, Elections, and Media

It is a common question during presidential debates moderated by the media on how one will approach the issue of equality once in office. The media has always presented it as a bedeviling issue of every regime, and one that needs redress. The media has always taken center stage in these debates, and they bring on board all the hard questions for the presidential candidates. Other than in the debates, it is a campaign tool by all candidates, promising to do the best for each race and ethnicity when in office. In the campaigns for the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump was quoted saying, "I have done the most good for black Americans, with the exception of Lincoln, while Lincoln did well, although it's always questionable" . Such remarks show the importance that non-discrimination and equality plays in the matrix of power.
Every American is important in the development of policy, and in the constitution of every government. The candidates and the media all understand the dynamics of diversity in the country, and how discriminatory acts have affected every group in the past. With such understanding, and the desire to win every vote available, they use remarks in equality and non-discrimination that whip the emotions of the voters. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 comes into play as a card in the game with the promise of full implementation. The candidates present themselves as the best bet for the citizens in ensuring that the provisions of the Act are implemented and guarded at all times.
The media is a very powerful institution anywhere in the world. They shape public opinion through the way they deliver and package information. The citizens are consumers of news and expert opinions from media houses. Therefore, the media is at the epicenter of the views placed on leaders and their stance on important issues of public discourse like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For instance, they presented Donald Trump as an abuser of these rights, and it cost him the 2020 presidency. The media will at times take a biased position, and end up reducing one’s chances of ascending to office.

Voting and the Election Process

The blacks are always more likely to vote for candidates whose policies are seen to favor indiscriminative approaches. As such, their preferences are usually against the conservatives of the Republican Party. The voting patterns have been established in the belief that the interests of a certain group are best entrusted on a certain political path than the other. The citizens believe that leadership with certain policies would be best suited for their interests, especially against non-discrimination. In the 2020 presidential election in the United States, tabloids and experts have largely reported that Biden’s presidency was assured by the black people’s vote. In battleground states like Georgia and Michigan, it was the black people’s vote that made the significant difference.
The progress made in the equality and non-discrimination spheres has been phenomenal over the years. The United States Congress has people of all origins and backgrounds. Recently, Raphael Warnock was elected Georgia's first black US senator. In the 2018 midterms, Ilhan Omar was elected to the United States House of Representative. The lady was formerly a refugee in Daadab Camp in Kenya from Somalia. Therefore, one can argue that the electoral and voting processes are maturing to accept diversity and shun discrimination. People are rising against the tides and acts of supremacy to accept every other individual into the system. Going forward, the belief is that the discriminative voting patterns in the presidential elections will also go away. People will embrace candidates based on their promise and not their origin and background. The vetting of candidates shall be based on performance and national interests, and not racial and ethnicity concerns. With a fully operational Civil Rights Act of 1964, it should not be a worry who gets into the Oval Office.

The progress under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has achieved quite well on gender equity, where men and women have had relatively great success in balancing the genders. It has not been a complete overhaul, but step by step there have been little successes. Women have risen into high positions that were traditionally thought to belong to men. Nonetheless, the fight for gender equality has exposed the fact that the guarantees of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The achievements got through this legislation are there for all to see. The United States today (September 2023) has a female vice president – Kamala Harris, and enjoyed an 8-year presidency of a Black American- Barack Obama, from 2008 to 2016. Without the achievements of this Act, it could possibly have been possible. Nevertheless, the deaths of people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor remind the Americans that they are still a long way to go in the quest for civil justice. The discrimination is still entrenched within the systems, and must be dealt with comprehensively.
In this thought-provoking response, the author's perspective is skillfully backed by an extensive body of comprehensive research and readily available information, offering a well-informed and compelling exploration of the subject matter.

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September 20, 2023

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